Canadian Pizza Magazine

Features Business and Operations Marketing
The pizza chef: When customers are wrong


October 30, 2009
By Diana Coutu

Topics

Dealing with the public is one of the most stressful jobs that you can do. In fact, if you obtain disability or life insurance based on the job description ‘restaurant owner or manager’ you’ll find yourself paying premiums equal to those of ER doctors because the insurance companies have done studies that prove the extreme stress levels for either position are about the same. Kind of makes you think twice about your paycheque doesn’t it?

Dealing with the public is one of the most stressful jobs that you can
do. In fact, if you obtain disability or life insurance based on the
job description ‘restaurant owner or manager’ you’ll find yourself paying premiums equal to those of ER doctors
because the insurance companies have done studies that prove the
extreme stress levels for either position are about the same. Kind of
makes you think twice about your paycheque doesn’t it?

Much of the stress comes directly from dealing with the public. There
has been a long standing saying that ‘the customer is always right’ and
some people really take it to the next level. Of course, when you do
make a mistake you should do whatever you can to correct it, but some
customers would have you sign over the deed to your home over a topping
mistake.

Take ‘Fred’ for instance. Fred has been ordering pizza from us for over
five months. Two months ago, Fred called back to complain that there
wasn’t enough sauce on his pizzas. My staff gave him a credit for the
full amount of the order. A week later, Fred redeemed his credit and
the pizzas were great. A week after that he places another order and
again complained that there wasn’t enough sauce on his pizzas. My staff
gave him another full credit for his order. A week later, Fred redeemed
his credit and the pizzas were great. Another week rolls by and Fred
places another order only to complain that there wasn’t enough sauce.
It’s important to note that my manager made his pizzas the exact same
way all four times he ordered. Are you beginning to recognize a pattern?

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Next there’s Mark. Mark ordered from us for the first time a few weeks
ago. He wanted strip bacon and we were able to accommodate his request.
He insisted that he wanted it crispy; in fact, he said that if we sent
him a pizza with raw bacon on it that he’d immediately send it back. My
husband informed him that the strip bacon we have is already fully
cooked and it crisps up nicely in the oven when we bake the pizza. He
requested that we cook the bacon again–before we put it on his
pizza–regardless of my husband’s assurances that it was already fully
cooked. If we did what Mark asked he would get burnt bacon. At this
point he became angry, and argued that he was the customer and that’s
the way he wanted his pizza made. Reluctantly, my husband agreed and
did exactly what Mark asked. The pizza was sent out with extra crispy,
black around the edges bacon. Mark called back to complain that the
bacon was burnt. He wanted his money back and for us to remake his
pizza for his “trouble”.

Then there is a man who is nameless. His wife ordered four large pizzas
and a family-size Caesar salad. Shortly after the order was delivered,
the husband called back to say that we had insulted his whole family
because there was real bacon in the Caesar salad. His family was Muslim
and therefore they do not eat bacon. Although the pizzas were perfectly
fabulous, he wanted us to refund the entire order because of ‘this
insensitive conduct of our company’.

And we can’t forget Sheila. She called one day to redeem a credit. All
credits are stored in our POS system and we simply need to type in the
phone number to recall the details. Sheila gave four different phone
numbers, none of which had been entered in our system, which means that
there was no trace of an order, much less of her being a customer. We
tried to pin down the date she ordered, so we could go through the back
end of the system and find her credit. There is always a record kept,
it’s just a matter of finding it. She stated that it had been three
months since her order. My husband exported three months of orders into
an excel sheet to look for it. She became irritated, understandably, as
it appeared that she was a scammer. My husband kept his patience and
asked if there was possibly another phone number, perhaps an old cell
phone number or a work number that she had given when she placed the
order. She insisted that she had already given him all the numbers they
ever had and added that we had very poor customer service. My husband
decided to go back further and pulled six months of orders. Sure
enough, he found Sheila, with a matching address and completely
different phone number than any of the previous ones given. He called
her back to tell her the good news that he found her credit and it was
linked to this other phone number, which explained why we couldn’t find
it. Plus, she ordered over six months ago, not three. Instead of being
happy, she rudely said: “Well, that’s my husband’s downstairs business
line, we never give it out and you still have bad customer service.”
It’s as if she thought we had a conspiracy against her and had dug up
some hidden phone number to mess with her. My husband couldn’t hold his
tongue. Sheila had consumed over two hours worth of my manager’s and my
husband’s time by giving the wrong information. Plus, despite our
ingrained friendly attitude and trying to find plausible solutions she
was extremely rude and insulting and she felt she could dish out abuse
to any and all because she was the customer.

These types of customers take a lot of time and energy out of you and
your staff. I bet you all have them too. In my experience, these types
only get worse with age. There is no satisfying this kind of customer.
In fact, typically we fire these types. That’s right, we fire them.
Just like an employee who’s not pulling his or her weight. Hey, it’s a
free country and we consider ourselves an ‘At Will Business’, meaning
that we choose whether we’ll accept business from someone or not. If we
make a mistake then we’ll make it right, but there’s no mandate that
compels us to do business with undesirable customers like the ones above. It’s also my experience that some people are
extremely unhappy in their lives and will complain about everything,
especially if they can find someone to take it out on. There’s no
reward for taking the abuse and insults they throw at you and your
staff. Truthfully, they leave you little time and energy to look after
your best customers. We put our foot down and politely tell those
individuals to move onto another pizza place because we won’t accept
their business.

When you do fire an undesirable customer, it really feels great! You
regain control of your business and reduce a lot of the stress. Your
staff will also respect you more, because they know firsthand that the
customer isn’t always right. Sometimes the customer is absolutely
wrong.


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